"America First" pays off in the Middle East

More than his personal diplomacy, Trump’s “America First” policies deserve credit for the agreement, the administration’s clearest achievement in foreign policy. By eschewing American military intervention in the region, Trump pushed the regional players to rise to the occasion. The mortal leap was more difficult for Prince Zayed, and will be for the Saudis and others who follow his lead, because Sunni radicalism remains a formidable force in the region—with funding and encouragement from Qatar and Turkey. The fact that energy-self-sufficient America no longer needs to play policeman in the Persian Gulf, and has wearied of sacrificing blood and treasure in regional wars, compels the Gulf states to act responsibly as a matter of self-preservation. As long as the Gulf States remained de facto US protectorates, they could claim that the “Arab Street” stood in the way of relations with Israel. Now that they have to take responsibility for their own defense, they look to Israel for help.

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Trump drew fire in October 2019 when he announced that the small contingent of US forces in Syria would leave, effectively leaving Russia as the dominant outside power. The widely-predicted disaster never happened. Russia has limited the scope of Turkish influence among the remaining radical Sunni fighters and allowed Israel to pound Iranian positions throughout. The UAE-Israel agreement opens new possibilities for Syrian reconstruction.

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